This book was given to me at no cost as a member of the From Left to Write book club.
When I first saw the plot summary for The Stuff That Never Happened by debut author Maddie Dawson, part of me thought “Oh Lord, please don’t let this book be another The Bridges of Madison County, the 1992 mega-best selling novel which when I finally got around to this “must read” was one of the worst, cheesiest books I have ever read. (Am I dating myself?)
I am happy to say that this book couldn’t be further from Bridges. The premise is somewhat similar. In The Stuff, Annabelle McKay marries way too young and way too quickly to a man she moves from California to New York City with. Living with her husband’s best friend and mentor, Jeremiah, and his wife and twin toddlers, the two wind up having an affair. Annabelle and her lover vow to leave their respective spouses only for Jeremiah to tell Annabelle that he is unable to go through with it… after she has already left Grant.
Grant winds up taking her back on the condition that she must never speak of what happened again. With this promise made to her husband, Annabelle spends the next over 25 years of her marriage thinking and fantasizing about Jeremiah on a daily basis.
By the way, I’m not spoiling the book for you as this is all information that can be found on the back cover of the book. The real “meat” of the story is that Annabelle winds up meeting Jeremiah 26 years later while visiting her daughter back in New York City, and what Annabelle decides to do after that meeting occurs.
Pretty juicy, right? Who among us hasn’t had an old flame that we think about from time to time wondering, “What if?” or “What might have been?”
But even if you do not have an old boyfriend lurking in the dark corners of your brain, there is so much more to this book. It is a book about feminism in the mid 1970s, being a wife, mother and daughter, choosing a career, and trying to find your identity in the midst of trying to juggle all of those things.
The Stuff That Never Happened is not just a “What if?” book. It is about the choices we do make in life; the consequences and how we deal with them.
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